Marsha Nakamura enriched the lives of thousands of children during her 30-year career with the Nampa School District. She believed the mediocre teacher tells, the good teacher explains, the superior teacher demonstrates — but the great teacher inspires. And Marsha inspired her students and her colleagues. She was passionate about her profession, and she set high expectations for herself and others. The Marsha Nakamura Award for Teaching Excellence was established to recognize, reward and promote excellence in teaching and advocacy for the profession. 

Trent Van Leuven
2023-24 Idaho Teacher of the Year
Mackay Education Association
Nominated by Peggy Hoy 

Trent Van Leuven likes to call this a “golden age for career technical education.” It’s a phrase he’s used a lot during his term as the Idaho Department of Education’s 2023-24 Idaho Teacher of the Year. And he should know.  

As an agriscience teacher at Mackay High School, Van Leuven searches high and low for unique ways to leave his students with much more than a typical lesson plan can offer. 

“Trent has created a classroom environment that encourages students to take risks, explore possibilities and problem solve,” wrote Stephanie Fullmer, principal of all K-12 schools in Mackay, in a letter supporting Van Leuven’s nomination for the Marsha Nakamura Award for Teaching Excellence. “No matter what path students take, Trent is teaching them real-world skills and strategies.” 

Perhaps the best and most widely celebrated example of Van Leuven’s approach is the creation of a fish lab run by his students. In a real-world example of inspiring others to make a difference, the lab now supports the most accessible California Golden Trout fishery in Idaho on Lower Cedar Creek near Mackay.  

“Through his initiative and resourcefulness, Mr. Van Leuven has not only enriched the educational curriculum but has also created a lasting impact on the local ecosystem and educational outreach,” wrote Peggy Hoy, Idaho’s representative on the National Education Association Board of Directors, in nominating Van Leuven.  

His proponents are quick to point out that he goes the extra mile for every student. “Trent helps all students, regardless of background, prepare for college, careers, and life,” wrote Bart Gamett, a fish biologist with the U.S. Forest Service in Mackay. “Trent has students from a variety of cultural, ethnic, socio-economic, and religious backgrounds and he provides all of them the chance to succeed.” 

Van Leuven serves as a member of the National Association of Agriculture Educators, chairman of the Idaho Farm Bureau Federation’s State and Federal Lands Committee, chairman of the Lost Rivers Farm Bureau Promotion and Education Committee and the chairman of the Lost Rivers Farm Bureau Board of Directors.  

“His community was blessed the day the Van Leuven family moved in and have benefited from his work as a teacher ever since,” wrote Bryan Searle, president of the Idaho Farm Bureau Federation, in support of Van Leuven’s nomination for Marsha Nakamura Award. 

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